What are aflatoxins? Why are they a food SAFETY issue of increasing public health concern, especially in developing countries?
Good people, the month of February, 2019, is here and with it the end of the long month of January!
- What are aflatoxins? They are a family of toxins produced by certain fungi that are found on agricultural crops such as maize (corn), peanuts (groundnuts) and other crops. Aflatoxin producing fungi can contaminate crops in the field, at harvest and during storage (post-harvest). https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances/aflatoxins
- Why is aflatoxin contamination a food safety issue which is a core component of food security? According to the UN/FAO definition of Food Security, SAFE food is a critical component of achieving food security: Here is the FAO definition of food security: http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/faoitaly/documents/pdf/pdf_Food_Security_Cocept_Note.pdf
- In addition to aflatoxin contamination, heavy metals contamination of soils with mercury, lead and arsenic is a key food safety concern of public health interest. Most people are not aware that synthetic fertilizers(like NPK) are key sources of these heavy metals in the soil: Here is the evidence: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272683687_Phosphate_fertilizer_is_a_main_source_of_arsenic_in_areas_affected_with_chronic_kidney_disease_of_unknown_etiology_in_Sri_Lanka
- Mercury contamination as a food safety concern is summarized in a previous article in this blog series: Here: http://organicconsumers.co.ke/130-mercury-contamination-its-negative-health-effects-how-to-detoxify-the-body-of-mercury-and-other-heavy-metals.html
- Agro-chemicals contamination of soils, re: herbicides (and pesticides) contamination, in particular, glyphosate aka Roundup Weed Killer, is a known risk factor linked a myriad of chronic diseases: it is a pathway to a broad spectrum of human diseases: Here is the evidence: https://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416 . Recent studies have associated glyphosate (and its various formulations) with reduced I.Q of unborn children!: http://organicconsumers.co.ke/131-did-you-know-that-exposure-of-pregnant-women-to-organophosphate-herbicides-pesticides-can-reduce-the-iq-of-their-children.html
- How are aflatoxins , alongside heavy metals and agrochemicals contamination, as food safety issues, connected with Food Security and Food Sovereignty? Here is an illustrative Venn Diagram demonstrating the link and intersection : https://www.bigpicnic.net/about/food-security/
- Are there recent scientific studies demonstrating the incidence and prevalence of aflatoxin contamination? Yes; Here is a credible scientific study: Aflatoxin exposure in Kenya, 2007, a cross-sectional study, published 2013: The study has great references: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3725670/
- More, locally, are there any recent cases of aflatoxin contamination of animal products, like milk and in peanut products? YES: Here: https://www.kenyans.co.ke/news/36461-alarm-raised-over-toxic-milk-market
- and here: https://www.kenyans.co.ke/news/36491-jetlak-foods-limited-responds-accusations-presence-harmful-aflotoxin-nuteez-peanut
- Now that we have established that addressing aflatoxins and other food safety issues is part of achieving food security, what are the policy and strategy solutions towards addressing food safety, in general and aflatoxin contamination, specifically?
It requires a multi-pronged and trans-disciplinary approach that includes creating AWARENESS among consumers and farmers and advocating for evidence based food safety advocacy with policy makers and strengthening of regulatory agencies to do their job; starting with BELOW the soil efforts: Promoting healthy soils and soil regeneration…”healthy nutrition starts with healthy soils”… including rapping about soil! The author of this article is one of the rappers!